March 19, 2009

Court Appointed Special Advocate

In Cook County there are about 10,000 kids every year who are abused and/or neglected. Staggering numbers. These kids need our help. I volunteer as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for the Juvenile Court system in Cook County. CASAs are appointed by judges to insure that children have an objective voice in court and that their best interests are being served.
For almost two years I've worked on a case where there are three children in two different foster care placements - they are the 8th, 9th and 10th children of a drug-addicted mom, all born drug-exposed. The natural father of two of the children has been working to gain custody of his kids and has done everything the court has asked him to do; he's taken parenting classes, he has no contact with the natural mother, he gets tested for drugs regularly (has always been negative), and he travels three hours by bus twice a week to see his children.
Recently he was hospitalized, due, I was told, to a recurrence of a cancer he'd had in the past. On Tuesday this man died. Very sad. He was a good man. He wasn't trying to shirk his responsibilities, he was trying to correct past mistakes and take care of his children. It's a heartbreaking ending to this situation. Fortunately all three children are in good homes and the foster moms will keep them safe. That's what I work to ensure.
I've been a CASA volunteer for more than seven years and have found it vital and rewarding work. This is the perfect volunteer opportunity for people who are looking to make a difference in the life of a child.
If you're interested in getting involved call CASA of Cook County at 312-433-4928. Or look up the CASA office in your area. It's a nationwide organization.

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